Back to Magazine


From the city to the village


In a school gym, teams of students from a high school in Yanqing County, on the northern outskirts of Beijing, are practicing their CPR skills on a set of manikins.

One of the trainers, Dr Ma Guilin, has worked for the Red Cross Society of China (RCSC) Beijing branch for more that 10 years as a master trainer. “Don’t get fixated on the triangular bandages,” she tells the students.

“If there’s an accident, you may have nothing on hand, so use whatever you can find; a piece of clothing, a scarf, anything will do.” This is the first thing Ma tells her trainees. “Be guided by the actual situation on the ground.” And there’s one more thing: “ Don’t ask the injured person lots of long questions!”

This kind of first-aid training for non-professional rescuers in China dates back to the mid-1990s and it has developed rapidly in the past decade. A vast country with widely varying levels of economic development and health services, China also has big discrepancies in levels of first-aid training from region to region.

The Beijing branch has been among the most successful and boasts a highly motivated team. “There are more than 1,000 volunteer trainers in Beijing branch,” Ma says. “I’m just one of them.”

In order to meet the needs of different groups, the Beijing Red Cross branch tries to diversify its training modules, from 16-hour classes to simpler, 4-hour classes. Every day, RCSC volunteers such as Ma go to schools, companies, and communities to deliver life-saving skills.

‘They are neighbours’

Away from the big cities such as Beijing and Shanghai, however, there are still huge challenges in bringing first-aid skills and knowledge to the remote rural areas. There are no manikins for CPR practice and villagers may not even be familiar with the concept of CPR.

Based on these variations, first-aid experts in RCSC say it will be some time before 2010 worldwide guidelines on evidence-based first aid can be implemented across the country. Meanwhile, China is also working on its own national guidelines to help standardize first-aid techniques.

In 2009, supported by IFRC, the RCSC launched a community- based health and first-aid project in four provinces affected by the Sichuan earthquake a year earlier. So far, the project has trained 1,130 volunteers from local communities in Gansu, Shaanxi, Sichuan and Yunnan. Those local community volunteers bring basic health and first-aid knowledge to their own communities, directly reaching to 20,000 families. It enables local people to take more responsibility for their own basic health and gain confidence once they feel empowered to treat simple ailments and injuries.

69-year-old villager Yang Yuyu and Mu Yufeng, 67, live on their own, as their children all work in cities outside their home region. Before a recent training, they lacked even basic first-aid supplies in their home and had no first-aid knowledge and skills.

“The Red Cross volunteer told us how to bind up the wound with bandages and alcohol,” says Yang, who is now equipped with his own first-aid kit. “Next time if my family member or I get hurt, I can help without delay. The volunteers are easy to find, as they are our neighbours.”

By He Lei
He Lei is a communications officer for the Red Cross Society of China






Contact Us